It’s more common than you think. And in the coming year, as the Texas Legislature gears up to address the important (and expensive) issue of school finance reform, lots of your dollars are going to be used to make a pitch for more.
In fact, it’s already happening across the state.
“Hundreds of school districts in Texas, including Brownwood ISD, have filed suit against the state over public school finance as many districts continue to experience deep cuts in state funding,” the Brownwood News reported last week. “Brownwood ISD Superintendent Dr. Reece Blincoe has been asked to testify against the state in one of six lawsuits on the funding issue as well as about a dozen district representatives from across the state. Depositions are due in August for the trial which is expected to take place in October.”
Of course, officials who want more money use to popular (but irrelevant) reasons: fairness and jobs.
“Blincoe said that he believes school funding needs to be fair and equal for all school districts and that small rural towns depend on their schools, not only for education but for as a major source of employment,” the News added.
“Fairness” is hard to measure, but a pretty good case can be made that the school finance system is unfair — and not in the least to taxpayers, who are paying more and more for worse and worse results.
As far as the issue of jobs, that’s just the old Keynesian argument rehashed at the state level. For what certainly won’t be the last time, the private sector isn’t doing fine — it’s struggling mightily to support the public sector.
It’s very likely at least one of those lawsuits will result in the state’s school finance system being overturned. What happens then? Even more taxpayer-funded lobbying. Countless school officials and experts will be called to testify in Austin before committees.
That’s what we have seen in years past. And it’s no different at the national level.
NPR is one of the biggest lobbyists for more of your dollars.
“National Public Radio (NPR) is using taxpayer dollars to pay for high-priced lobbyists to fight Republican efforts to prohibit federal funding for the broadcaster,” the Washington Times reported last year. “Despite outrage over the openly liberal network receiving tens of millions of dollars in subsidies while government deficits are at record levels, NPR brass have engaged a new lobbying firm to keep the spigots flowing.”
And in 2009, the Cato Institute reported that many of the recipients of TARP bailout funds used that money to lobby for more.
“It’s bad enough to have our tax money taken and given to banks whose mistakes should have caused them to fail,” Cato observed then. “It’s adding insult to injury when they use our money — or some ‘other’ money; money is fungible — to lobby our representatives in Congress, perhaps for even more money. Get taxpayers’ money, hire lobbyists, get more taxpayers’ money. Nice work if you can get it.”
The point here is that we’re watching. Taxpayers are more savvy these days (the Internet helps) and they demand their money be spent on legitimate uses — not on lobbying.
As the legislative session nears, governmental entities should keep that in mind.